New treatment available for sleep apnea suffers

April 13, 2018 06:05 PM

Some 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. That's when you stop breathing during sleep. The most common kind of sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of your airway. Now there's a new treatment.

Snoring is the telltale sign of sleep apnea, but not everyone who snores has apnea.

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Sleep apnea is a health threat. That's because you stop and start breathing many times a night. It's diagnosed through a sleep study.

It's time to go for a sleep study if you suffer these symptoms:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Tired all the time
  • Waking with a headache
  • High blood pressure
  • You're overweight or obese
  • Often irritable and mood swings.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of apnea.    

What happens is during sleep, the muscles that keep the airway open relax, along with the tongue, causing the airway to narrow. Add that to other physical issues and breathing is affected.

Untreated, sleep apnea raises your risk of accidents because of your sleepiness. It can also increase your risk of heart disease. So treatment is key.

Most often, a CPAP will be prescribed. The mask device pumps air in - opening your airway.

When that or surgery doesn't work or can't be tolerated, there's a new treatment - upper airway stimulation and Albany Medical Center is the first in the region offering this.

"Which stimulates the nerve to the tongue and allows the tongue to jut forward during sleep, opening up the retro-lingual or behind the tongue airway," explained Dr. Neil Gildener-Leapman, an ENT with Albany Medical Center.

To power the stimulator, a small battery pack is implanted in the patient's upper chest. The device only activates during sleep. It's recommended for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea who are normal weight, have typical airway structure but poor muscle tone in the throat.

Dr. Gildener-Leapman says screening and approval for this takes months.

To learn more about sleep apnea and related problems -- you can attend a free seminar Tuesday, April 17 at the Hearst Media Center. The program begins at 5:45. You must register.

More information:

Registration for sleep apnea seminar


Benita Zahn

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